Walk Your Dog to Better Health and Well-Being
Live Better through Three Healthy Choices
Dogs are wonderful pets. Could a dog provide health benefits to the human owners? The authors of a 2011 review conclude that, with some qualifications, pet ownership benefits humans. Dog owners are likely to engage in more physical activity, mainly through dog walking, than people who don’t own dogs. Evidence indicates that the companionship of pets can reduce stress and bolster emotional states, leading to reduced autonomic nervous system activity, better cardiovascular function and lower blood pressure.
Another 2011 study showed that pets can fulfill social connectivity needs, improve well-being, and provide an additional layer of social support on top of that provided by humans. Fourteen years of walking our dog, Amelia, around our neighborhood certainly connected me and my wife to the people in our neighborhood.
A 2013 review of 29 studies published between 1990 and 2010 examined the relationship between walking and dog ownership. The studies sampled adults from the US and Australia. The researchers found that dog owners walked more than non-dog owners. About 60 percent dog owners walked their dogs for a median duration of 160 minutes over four walks per week or about 23 minutes per day. According to dogtime.com, most dogs need 30 – 60 minutes of daily exercise. One hundred sixty minutes is slightly longer than the commonly recommended minimum of 150 minutes of brisk walking per week.
In year 1999, our daughter, Helen, badgered my wife and me to get a dog. She insisted that she would take of the dog. My wife and I agreed that we could get a dog when Helen fulfilled a number of criteria. In April 2000, Helen asserted that she had fulfilled all of the requirements. I reluctantly agreed. Five minutes later we drove to the Boulder Human Society. About two minutes after we arrived, Helen announced that she had found THE dog, Amelia, an auburn-colored beauty who appeared to be a mix between a golden retriever and a red chow. Amelia J Puppy Dog (as we soon renamed her) helped me and my family live better through three healthy choices: Move More (thrice-daily walks), Cultivate a Network of Social Connections (meeting people in our wider neighborhood), and Live with Purpose (being responsible for Amelia’s welfare).
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 36 percent of American households (over 43 million) in 2012 had a dog. If you’re one of them, you can improve your own health and that of your beloved dog by taking a brisk 30-minute daily walk—starting today.